Your Role is Critical!

This past weekend was the annual Pancake Breakfast fundraiser for Youth Impact, our urban ministry to Bryan kids, to help send them to Kids Across America camp. It was amazing to see the significant roles each person played in making this fundraiser possible. We had stellar leaders who helped set up on Friday afternoon, worked all morning, and then helped clean up after the event. The kids served with amazing attitudes, being attentive to the needs of the guests, willing to do whatever job we asked with excitement and joy. The families, friends and church body who came were a pleasure to serve and to give a glimpse of what our ministry is all about. At one point I took a moment and stepped back to watch as the crowded room buzzed with talking and laughter and I enjoyed the beauty God has created within the body of Christ. I was in awe and reminded by God that He designs each of us with unique gifts to be able to serve one another.

When looking at the church I see so many different individuals who attend and it amazes to me to see how God has pieced all of these people together to make one functioning body. No matter what your gifting is there is a place for each person to serve! We have Sunday school teachers who have been teaching for seventeen years, we have members who have been contributing faithfully for decades and we have college students leading for the first time. God uses each one in an intricate way to glorify Himself.

We are commanded to serve one another by using the spiritual gifts God has given each one of us. If you don’t know what your spiritual gifts are I would strongly encourage you to find out so you can learn to use them! Your gifting is unique and as important as any other. So whether you are serving behind the scenes, teaching in a classroom, helping prepare a meal for a family, bringing non-believers to church, praying for missionaries, leading a home church, or volunteering for a special event you play a vital role in the body! If you are not sure where to serve or need help finding your place please feel free to ask any of the staff here at Grace; we would love to help you find out!

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-11

Renee Nelson, college intern

Easter All the Time

As I went to the Easter service yesterday morning, I walked in to the sanctuary focusing on my strong hope of eternal life through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As we began to worship together, singing songs that celebrated Christ’s victory over death and offering praises to God for His accomplishment on the Cross, the significance of Easter was at the forefront of my mind. My expectation for this Easter Sunday morning was a sermon on the topic of this special day: the physical resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ which ushered in a new hope and the security of physical resurrection and promise of eternal life for those who have believed in Him. But as I opened the bulletin, I found a continuation of the current sermon series on one of Paul’s epistles. I was confused. I thought Easter Sunday was to be the pinnacle of the celebration of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Did I miss something?

The Lord quietly reminded but also boldly convicted me that the resurrection of Christ is not something only to be celebrated on one special day of the year. The power of the resurrection is such that it is the reason we can and should celebrate on the other 364 days of the year! As the sermon was preached, it was made apparent that the resurrection is the hinge of all Christian life because it reflects God’s power and faithfulness, and provides hope to those who believe. So whether we are talking about God’s grace, living the Christian life, or endurance in the faith, the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ—the complete message—are the foundation upon which these other truths stand.

As I continued to think about this after the service, the Lord brought some questions to my mind to evaluate my own life. Am I worshipping and praising the Lord for the resurrection and how it affects my life on a consistent basis, not just at Easter? Am I walking in the reality that Christ conquered death? Do my words, actions, and thoughts reflect the power of this truth?

In the aftermath of Easter, I am praying that the Lord would bring these questions to my mind often and that I would not lose sight of the fullness of His accomplishments year-round. In other words, that in my heart and in my life it would be Easter all the time!

“He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” Luke 24:6-7

Holly Brown, college intern

Finding Truth in the Theatre

One thing that you will learn about me if you are around me for long is that I love art. I like to think of myself as having an appreciation for the finer things in life. Although I have not initiated a “Finer Things Club” in my workplace, I feel very certain that I would be privy to that inner circle in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

One of my favorite “finer things” is the theatre. I had the privilege of going to see the musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic, Les Miserables, in Houston yesterday afternoon. Art which has the ability to be not only beautiful and inspiring but also to point indirectly to theological themes always impresses me. I can think of no other musical that does this as well as Les Mis.

The central character of the story is Jean Valjean, who has been in prison for nineteen years for stealing bread for his starving family. After his release, he quickly returns to his former ways—bitter, unchanged, and still ravaged by his devastated life. Soon Valjean is caught in the act of robbing a local bishop, and the police bring him before the bishop. It is a stunning visual contrast to observe the bishop, dressed all in white, standing before a humble and ragged Jean Valjean. The bishop reports to the police that what they had assumed Valjean had stolen was actually a gift and that Valjean left before he was able to give him more. One act of grace and a life is transformed. Because the bishop gave Valjean what he did not deserve, Valjean is saved—not only from the punishment of prison but he is given the opportunity to begin a new life, one revolutionized by the grace freely lavished on by another. From this moment on, he knows that he has a soul, and now he can never be the same. He describes his transformation by asking: “What spirit came to move my life? I stare into the void, to the whirlpool of my sin…Jean Valjean is nothing now, another story must begin!”

Throughout the rest of the story, Valjean commits his life to granting mercy to those in need. In the midst of his reformed life, he is constantly being hunted by the police inspector Javert. Javert was the prison guard in which Valjean was held captive and later becomes a police inspector, hungry to indict Valjean for past wrongs in the name of justice and righteousness. Javert serves as a foil for Valjean. Javert is ensnared in the bondage of legalism, whereas Valjean’s life is dramatically altered by the freedom of grace.

Grace, redemption, and forgiveness are not the only religious themes woven throughout the story. Love overrides the whole play. The characters are constantly sacrificing for one another out of a “heart full of love.” One young girl, Eponine, exhibits great depths of love for Marius, for she knew that her sacrificial death was the only way to be near to him.

It is easy to recognize messages of truth in this play, but I urge you to seek out truth in modern-day art. Look for mediums that express and communicate scriptural certainties—man’s depravity, the presence of evil in the world, hopelessness apart from Christ, and other spiritual themes. Even in the absence of truth, we can still show ourselves to be approved by bringing light to the darkness, pointing to the ultimate redemption that is only found in Jesus Christ.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 3:23-24

Amanda Brundrett, College Intern

Missions Through Prayer

The greatest thing we possess as believers is the truth of the Gospel. Have you ever truly thought about how you have a powerful weapon to defeat the forces of darkness? Jesus is the Light of the world and is drawing men and women to Himself daily. What part can we take in His Kingdom’s work? I have begun to think about this question more regularly – how can I be effective for God’s kingdom?

We all can take part daily in His work and in fact we are commanded to take part. With the summer quickly approaching, I have been thinking often about our summer trips to Greece, East Asia and North Africa. These three teams are preparing themselves for several weeks in a foreign country to share the truth about the Light of Jesus Christ. Committing half of your summer to sharing the Gospel in places where they do not regularly hear it is one big way to take part in God’s work. However, going to another country is not the only way to be used by God.

Prayer is also an essential part of reaching this world for Christ, and we can take part in those overseas ministries from right here in America. I want to encourage you each to take time each day to pray for those who are going overseas and those who are now in other countries – that the Lord would strengthen them, teach them about His love, and use them to share the Light of the Gospel with the lost. Being part of the sending side of missions can bring you great joy as you see God answer prayers and move in mighty ways in many lives. Take a few moments right now and pray that the lost in the world would hear the Gospel of hope through Jesus Christ.

“Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds
among all the peoples.” Psalm 96:3

The Blessing of Uncertainty

“Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God…”
1 John 3:21

I remember vividly the pressure of wondering what I would do after I graduated college. After all, this was the big question I was spending four or more years of my life trying to figure out, right? One of the toughest things about deciding on a career path or a place to live or any other is that there is no definite answer from the Scripture for where we should go or what we should do. These types of decisions are what I call non-ethical decisions. They are choices that do not violate God’s moral law, nor are their answers found written in a book. An example of clear direction in the Bible would be, “Do not get drunk on wine.” We know with certainty that we should not get drunk. In a few cases, God gives us a clear leading in a particular direction, and we know that we should pray for a particular person or take a particular course of action. Most of the time, however, our decisions seem more subjective. It is in the midst of these times when God teaches us vital lessons about building character and trusting in Him.

The quote above from 1 John can help us during times of non-ethical decisions. If we are pursuing God’s will in areas of clearly revealed truth, he will help us have confidence in more subjective matters. I am becoming more convinced that times in which we lack clear direction can actually be times of blessing. How? It is because in these times God teaches us to depend on him. He might want us to learn to cling more to His promises or to straighten out some part of our character that needs straightening. While we are wondering what we are to do, God is focused on who we should be or the strength of our trust in Him. Whatever the case may be, we can lean on His promise that He works ALL THINGS, every large or small situation, for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28).

Having laid this foundation, I want to pose a question that addresses the second part of 1 John 3:21: Do we have confidence that we are being obedient to God? If so, God will listen and answer our prayers because we are obedient to the Lord and are doing what pleases Him. We can then have confidence to walk through a door that He opens. What if we still lack confidence? It is one thing to know about God’s promises; it is another thing to truly lean on them. During times when I don’t sense clear direction from the Lord, He is giving me an opportunity to exercise faith. He is also giving me the opportunity to experience the victory and rest that comes from having faith in Him even when circumstances are uncertain. It is tempting to immediately ask God for clarity when sometimes we should be asking to have our faith strengthened or to endure the present trial rejoicing! Such a reaction to difficult times is a testimony to God’s grace in our lives. Moreover, it is a testament to the hope we have not in building the home of the American Dream, but living for the dwelling we will have for all eternity.

In retrospect, I think it is funny that I thought I had to have my whole life planned out after I graduated. Coming from someone who has passed through to the other side, I can say that I still don’t have my life completely figured out! (Nor does anyone else I know). Oswald Chambers, author of the beloved devotional book, My Utmost for His Highest, says in one of his talks, “One of the difficulties in Christian work is this question—‘What do you expect to do?’ You do not know what you are going to do; the only thing you know is that God knows what He is doing.” As this quote illustrates, it is okay for me to not know because the Lord is behind me, working every detail of my life for my good and His glory. I still have “big” decisions to make about my future and am not completely certain at this point of which road to take. I would like to extend a personal invitation to those of you facing similar decisions: Would you join me in trusting and rejoicing in the Lord as He leads us step by step?

Robbie Hooper, College Intern